They’re baaaaack! The Rolling Stones, Rock ‘n’ Roll’s longest running major act, is hitting the road again, for the umpteenth time. The Rolling Stones North American tour of 18 shows was kicked off in New York.
Now celebrating 50 years as a performing act, the Rolling Stones have played to the biggest audiences in Rock ‘n’ Roll, including a Brazil show attended by more than a million spectators. (Photo: Mark Seliger)
If you can make it, do yourself a favor and see the “Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band of All Time” while you can. But if you can’t get to the shows, here’s an overview of some of the band’s best performances on video, all of which show why this group has consistently been the most exciting live act in all of Rock music.
Song: “I’m All Right”
DVD: The T.A.M.I. Show
Why It’s A Classic: James Brown and Mick Jagger compete to see who rules the stage.
The Performance: A classic Rock ‘n’ Roll movie, The T.A.M.I. Show brought together a huge number of top performers. In a moment of heated backstage drama, the Stones were chosen to close the show—a decision that didn’t please master showman James Brown, who taunted the band: “I’m gonna make you Rollin’ Stones wish you’d never left England.” Brown’s set is absolutely amazing; he later claimed he never danced faster in his life. He dances with a vengeance.
Not-so-friendly rivals? Jagger had to figure out a way to out-perform James Brown, the greatest showman of the 1960s.
The Stones followed with five songs, finishing with this simple early rave-up. About two minutes in, Jagger settles the song down (despite the full-throttle screams of what sounds like a million teenage girls), then builds it back up, bit by bit. “I’m all right…” he sings over and over, changing the inflections and increasing the intensity each of the 15 times he sings the lyric. Finally, he’s screaming it.
Three songs and a riot: The crazy early days, when Rock stars had to run for their lives.
Pretty soon, Jagger’s moving his head as wildly as the maracas he’s shaking. Mayhem ensues and the crowd goes nuts. Jagger couldn’t out-dance James Brown, but he out-performed him all the same. This performance demonstrates the thrilling frenzy the band could generate live. The Stones’ early shows were all the same, according to deadpan drummer Charlie Watts: “Three songs and then a riot would break out.”
Song: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”
DVD: The Ed Sullivan Shows Starring the Rolling Stones
Why It’s A Classic: The band’s top track, back when the song was still creating a sensation.
The Performance: It’s a riff that still stops you in your tracks. The opening guitar growl that announces “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” is one of the most identifiable and iconic pieces of popular music. The breakthrough song went to Number One (the band’s first) during the boiling hot summer of 1965. It’s all here: the famous fuzz-tone guitar, the snarling attitude, the amazing lyrics—which poke fun at American advertising.
The shot heard ’round the world. 1965′s “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” became the group’s breakthrough hit.
This February 13, 1966, performance on the hugely popular Ed Sullivan Show did more to introduce this band to American audiences than any other. You can tell the band isn’t lip-synching by guitarist Keith Richards’ harmony singing and the extreme fuzz-tone effect box he was clicking on and off with his boot for the beginning riff and the chorus. See why “Satisfaction” is still the Rolling Stones’ signature song, and why “Rolling Stone” magazine selected the song as the second-greatest Rock song of all time.
Song: “Midnight Rambler”
DVD: Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones
Why It’s A Classic: Over-the-top showmanship meets gut-bucket Blues in a brutal live version filmed during the band’s peak.
The Performance: By 1972, there was little debate about which was the best Rock ‘n’ Roll band in the world. Any doubts were steamrolled over when video footage from the Stones’ 1972 tour was collected in this 1974 film. The band is in amazing condition and this tour probably represents its peak as a touring unit. Performances like these are why people started calling the Stones the best band in Rock ‘n’ Roll.
By 1972, the Stones were peaking, as Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones clearly proves.
Perennial live favorite “Midnight Rambler” is given a particularly aggressive workout, showcasing the interplay between singer Jagger and drummer Watts. This performance from Fort Worth, Texas, shows the sheer musical power that the Stones can generate, especially when they stretch out on a number, as they do on this 11-minute version, which is almost double the length of the original album cut. Seeing is believing. See it and you will believe…and you will be exhausted.
DVD: Some Girls: Live in Texas ’78 (Bonus Feature)
Why It’s A Classic: An early Stones comeback that charted all the other comebacks still to come.
The Performance: By 1978, a lot of Rock fans were giving up on the band, which suffered some creative ups and downs during the 70s. The Stones responded by embracing the two breakout musical genres of the era…Disco and Punk. The album that addressed both styles, as well as the band’s usual roots Rock ‘n’ Roll, was called Some Girls. It remains the band’s biggest selling album and is now generally considered a modern masterpiece and perhaps the band’s final masterwork.
The Stones hit Saturday Night Live like a “crossfire hurricane” back in 1978.
The studio audience at Saturday Night Live was primed to see the band in action on October 7, 1978, and the Stones brought the heat. During a manic, dizzying three-song set, the band showed itself to be in fierce condition and taking no prisoners. When the Stones careen into “Shattered” (the pumping final track from Some Girls), the band uses its go-for-broke power to push the set to its logical conclusion. By the end, Jagger is hopping about wildly, like a lab monkey that’s grown addicted to mild electric shocks. This sizzling performance was proof positive that you could never count out the Rolling Stones…and you still never can.
DVD: Live: At the Max
Why It’s A Classic: Keith pushes it to the limit and demonstrates why he’s a guitar riff-master.
The Performance: Keith Richards is more than just the Stones’ primary rhythm guitarist. He’s also the co-writer of some of the greatest Rock standards of all time, an occasional vocalist and one of music’s most colorful and funniest characters—kind of a mix of a cowboy and pirate. (True: Johnny Depp based his Jack Sparrow on his friend Richards, who even played Sparrow’s father in 2007’s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.)
Part cowboy, part pirate…all Rocker. Keith Richards “runs the kitchen” for the mighty Stones.
“Happy” is Richards’ personal statement, and what an outlaw anthem it is: “I never kept a dollar past sunset,” he brags. “It always burned a hole in my pants.” About two minutes in he casually yells, “Let’s get out, Ronnie,” to Ron Wood (the Stones’ other guitarist), signaling that it’s time to bring the song home. Which Richards then proceeds to do, with about a minute of blistering lead guitar that demonstrates his ingenuity as one of Rock’s greatest guitar gunslingers.
Still Rolling, Still Ruling
Part of why the Rolling Stones are great is because they still reflect their earliest influences, but another part has to do with the band’s ability to sound fresh. Through its ongoing work with producer Don Was, the Rolling Stones are able to use their mastery of music production skills to keep them at the top of the music business.
Learning music production can help put you at the top of the pop charts, too. But where do you learn music production on the same tools that the pros use? Look no further than Digital Media Academy, which offers cutting-edge music camps for the digital age. DMA’s Digital Audio, Music & Beat Production camp will teach you how to create your own rhythms for Rock, Hip-Hop, Dance, Electronica, Dubstep and other types of music. Plus, campers get to develop bass lines and use MIDI keyboards to make their own tracks. Look out, Mick. The kids are gunning for you.